During the holiday season, you can expect an increase in DUI Checkpoints (also known as Sobriety Checkpoints or DUI Roadblocks) around the city aiming to catch overly festive party-goers. That means that now is as good a time as any to brush up on what your rights are if you are stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
You Must Roll Down Your Window and Provide Your Driver’s License
Back in February, an attorney in Florida posted his “tip” to drivers that they did NOT have to roll down their windows or speak to officers at a DUI checkpoint. In California, however, this is not the case, and attempting this same trick may wind you in more trouble. When requested, hand over your driver’s license and registration, and remain calm. Do not argue with the officer, as this will just make things worse. If you are arrested for DUI at the checkpoint, the proper place to contest your ticket or arrest is in court. The courtesy and respect you show at the checkpoint may encourage them to be more lenient.
You do NOT Need to Perform a Field Sobriety Test
In the State of California, you are required to present your license when asked by an officer. You do not, however, need to submit to a field sobriety test, such as the walking in a straight line test commonly used, and you can refuse to do one. “My advice to clients is: don’t comply with field sobriety tests. You’re not required to. The officer can still arrest you without the field sobriety tests, but, it’s going to very difficult for them to prosecute someone when all they have is the blood alcohol.” Magill advises that while an officer may still arrest you for having a higher blood alcohol level, it is much more difficult for you to be prosecuted on blood alcohol level alone.
If Asked, Perform a Breathalyzer Test
After handing over your license and registration, do the breathalyzer test if requested. If asked to perform a field sobriety test, refuse. If your breathalyzer test indicates a high blood alcohol level, you may still be arrested, however this does not mean that all hope is lost. By exercising your right to refuse the field sobriety test, the only evidence left against you is the results from the breathalyzer, and your actions towards the officer at the checkpoint. Breathalyzer results can be shockingly inaccurate, and usually quite easy to contest in court. A quick search will pull up hundreds of cases in which breathalyzers were found to give incorrect results. These may be due to a manufacturer’s defect, incorrect calibration, or improper maintenance and upkeep of the device.
Is This Checkpoint Legal?
Ingersoll v. Palmer was the landmark case in California regarding the legality of DUI checkpoints. From this case, the following eight guidelines were lined out in order for a security checkpoint to be considered constitutional:
- Supervising officers must make all constitutional decisions.
- The criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral.
- The sobriety checkpoint must be reasonably located.
- Adequate safety precautions must be taken (increased lighting, for example).
- The checkpoint’s time and duration should reflect good judgment.
- The checkpoint must display sufficient indication of its official nature, such as a sign clearly stating that it is a DUI checkpoint.
- Drivers should only be detained for a minimal amount of time.
- DUI roadblocks should be publicly advertised in advance, so drivers can avoid them if desired.
If the the police fail to comply with these procedures, the DUI checkpoint (and arrests resulting from it) becomes open to legal challenge. In fact, it’s not uncommon for DUI charges to be dismissed for this reason.
Charles Magill’s relentless and creative style of legal service has resulted in more than 150 jury and court trial victories. Because of his uncanny ability to explain complex legal cases with unmistakable clarity, many news organizations, including FOX, ABC, CBS, NPR, NBC, The Wall Street Journal and The Fresno Bee, have sought his concise legal insight in interviews. He is an active member in the local Fresno Community and a member of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce. He and his firm have received multiple awards of recognition, many of which are a direct result of client nomination.
For more information about DUI, how breathalyzers can be inaccurate and results contested in court, and your legal rights and defenses when charged with DUI, check out our DUI page.